Annie Rios, Esq.


Executive Director

Annie (she/her/ella) is an experienced litigator, activist, and human rights attorney from San Diego, California. Beginning her legal career in 2010, she served as a managing attorney for the local rape crisis center, Center for Community Solutions (CCS). There, Annie efficaciously represented hundreds of sexual assault, domestic violence and elder abuse victims as the lead attorney protecting victims’ rights. During her time with CCS, Annie successfully briefed and argued a case before the 4th District Court of Appeal, defending a permanent restraining order for an elder abuse victim. Annie was awarded CCS’s Freedom Award for her legal advocacy.

Recognizing the intersectionality between interpersonal violence and homelessness, in 2016, Annie became the executive director and managing attorney of a local grassroots nonprofit, Think Dignity (TD), whose focus is on activating the San Diego community to advance basic dignity for those living on the streets. In addition to managing TD’s day to day operations, Annie formed a direct litigation program that provided criminal defense to homeless youth where restorative justice motions such as expungements and realignment/reductions of crimes were completed. 

As the managing attorney for TD Annie oversaw all impact litigation the organization did in advocating for the decriminalization of poverty on behalf of our homeless citizens. Annie served as of-counsel for class action lawsuits as well as co-counsel for an Amicus Curiae Brief, filed with the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, in the San Diego Criminal Appeals Court. Annie’s work centered around challenging the constitutionality of ordinances that criminalize the poor, perpetuate cycles of poverty and serve to discriminate against “undesirables” through broad and vague statutes.

Most recently, Annie was the supervising attorney for Al Otro Lado’s (AOL), a bi-national organization that provides cutting-edge legal services to the most vulnerable immigrant populations, Otay Mesa Detention Center Release Project. There, she zealously protected human rights for migrants in private prisons. Under her direction, the Release Project crafted methods to free the people and preserve due process. The Project used the principles of participatory defense to combat frivolous criminal and gang allegations used against immigrants and has collaborated with public health professionals to incorporate medical advocacy with legal arguments. Her work lead to litigation which provided relief for medically vulnerable migrants during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, under Fraihat v. ICE.  Annie’s efforts with the Release Project have been recognized by the UNHCR as best practices in helping advocate for immigrant detainees.

While at California Western School of Law, Annie was a student intern for the California Innocence Project.  As an intern she investigated the case of a young man who was found guilty of conspiracy to commit first degree murder because, although he wasn’t present at the time of the murder, he had taken initial steps in the commission of the crime. This experience was so impactful for her, that she dedicated an entire segment of a legal education program she would later create to the significance of conspiracy charges and the severity of sentencing under those charges in California. This program Annie ultimately created and founded, Uprise Theatre, teaches social justice and legal issues to youth in inner-city communities through theatre. Focusing on legal issues such as the 4th and 5th Amendment rights, conspiracy and entrapment, Uprise educates and empowers next generations as to their legal rights.

Annie’s work has been featured in VICE News, The Guardian, and NBC News. Her expertise has also been requested at conferences such as the National Legal Aid and Defender Association and Yale Rebellious Lawyering.

Annie was born, raised, still lives in, and is a product of, South East San Diego. Is a queer Chicana femme. Owes nothing to a system meant to terrorize communities she loves. Is a writer. And most importantly, is Daniel’s mom and Helen’s daughter.